A previously canceled production of Andrea Dunbar’s Rita Sue and Bob Too will now go ahead at London’s Royal Court in January 2018. The co-production with British theatre company Out of Joint was canceled last week amid sexual harassment allegations against Max Stafford-Clark, Out of Joint’s founding artistic director and former artistic director of The Royal Court.
Dunbar’s 1982 semi-autobiographical play, later adapted into a film, tells the story of two teenage girls who have an affair with the same married man.
In a statement published online December 13, the Royal Court stated that the production, with its themes of grooming and abuses of power on young women, “felt highly conflictual” and would therefore not be staged at the London theatre.
The move, however, prompted public debate regarding the suppression of a marginalized female voice. In a statement published December 15, Royal Court Artistic Director Vicky Featherstone explained that she had been “rocked to the core by accusations of censorship and the banning of a working-class female voice,” and had had decided to move forward with the show.
The revival of Rita Sue and Bob Too, directed by Stafford-Clark, will now play the London theatre as originally scheduled January 9–27, 2018.
Rita Sue and Bob Too was commissioned by Stafford-Clark during his time at The Royal Court. The revival, a shared collaboration between the Royal Court, Out of Joint, and Octagon Theatre Bolton, has already toured 10 venues.
Earlier this fall, The Guardian brought to light allegations of inappropriate, sexualized behavior against stage director Stafford-Clark made by a female employee at Out of Joint. The claims led the director to step down from his own company, founded in 1993.
The controversy is among the latest in a climate of high-profile allegations of sexual assault against people in the entertainment industry. Performances of Rita Sue and Bob Too will be followed by post-show talkbacks as an opportunity to discuss the themes in the play within this new context.
The Royal Court production of Lucy Kirkwood’s play The Children is now playing on Broadway. Flip through photos of the show: